Impact Investing Fosters Organic Farmland Security
Tera’s second Edible-Alpha® Live! famous founder interview featured David Miller, co-founder and CEO of Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT. Founded in 2007, this innovative finance company provides secure land access to organic and regenerative farmers through long-term leases and mortgages. To kick off the conversation, David delved into the genesis of the company. After a 30-year career in banking and real estate financial management, he had purchased a family farm he wanted to transition to organic, doing his part to change the “dead-soil monoculture” of the Midwest and benefit the environment and human health. Simultaneously, he and longtime friend Dr. Steven Rivard had been discussing the dearth of solid investment opportunities and came up with an idea: What if they could connect mission-driven investors with organic farmers, who struggle with land security and whose needs often go unmet by traditional financing? Many people thought they were crazy for asking investors to sink money into a long-term proposition with no option to exit. But as David explained, that structure was necessary to secure sustainable leases and garner farmers’ trust. Soon, enough investors had seen the value in supporting small to midsize organic farms to get Iroquois Valley off the ground. This was impact investing long before that term was used. David described how the company has evolved over 14 years to meet the financial needs of farmers. Iroquois Valley became a Certified B Corporation and, three years ago, a Public Benefit Corporation, which allows everyday people, not just accredited investors, to invest. The company also added a redemption mechanism for investors and mortgages and operating lines of credit for farmers. Iroquois Valley increasingly collaborates with other credit providers, nonprofits and other entities to broaden impact. Lately, they’ve begun planting trees on farms, helping to build investment cases for silvopasture, permaculture and other regenerative agriculture practices that don’t easily attract conventional financing. The company also recently purchased its own farm, Rock Creek Farm south of Chicago, for research, collaboration and demonstration. Although Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT has already done a ton to foster the next generation of organic and regenerative farmers, David and company are nowhere near finished. They are continually buying more conventional farmland to convert and working to scale up these sustainable systems for the good of people and the planet. Tune in to Tera’s full interview with David, as well her chats with other famous founders from Edible-Alpha® Live!